In accordance with the ‘Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan’ (PMGDISHA) and as per the directive of CMD and Director (Finance) ONGC, it has been mandated that any payment which is made to the vendors should be through ECS.
ECS is an electronic clearing system that facilitates paperless credit / debit transaction directly linked to the farmer’s bank account and also provides for a faster method for effective periodic and repetitive payments.
ONGC Mehsana Asset rents land from approximately 7,500 farmers residing in 95 villages in the nearby areas of the asset. Prior to the introduction of the ECS system, the rental and damage compensation was paid to the farmers through cheques. While this old-school method was relatively easier for the farmers to understand though it had its own set of challenges.
According to Dabhi Dilipsinh, a farmer from Indrap village in Mehsana, “A cheque takes at least a week to get cleared, and there are times when I need the money immediately as I have a big family to look after. A small farmer like me doesn’t usually prefer to wait that long after I have received the money in hand in the form of cheque. There have been instances when I have lost the cheque, in which case I have to go through a lot of hassle to get my money’.
The fear of loss and the trouble attached to it is so overwhelming that even when convinced of the gain accruing from the application of digital technology, they prefer to go along the traditional track of cheque payments.
ONGC Mehsana Asset has been making tremendous efforts to enrol the farmers in the ECS payment process but the progress has not been very encouraging.
These farmers face a multitude of issues, some of which are as trivial as the unavailability of printers/Xerox machines in their village while some of them are serious social concerns like illiteracy and poverty. The chances of a farmer filling the registration form and attaching relevant ID proofs on his own are very rare. It is imperative to understand that for farmers things like filling a registration form and nuances of the Indian Banking System can be quite overwhelming. This is the main reason behind the abysmal rate that the ECS enrolment process has seen in the past.
RameshBhai, Sarpanch of Akba, another village in Mehsana says, “Very few of the farmers in our village are literate. Also there are a lot of cases in which a farmer’s name on his Aadhar/PAN card does not match from his name registered in his Bank Account. Due to this, he is unable to enrol into the ECS program and hence does not get his money’.
In order to expedite the enrolment process, the LAQ team of Mehsana Asset has come up with a unique Door to Door Enrolment Campaign.
The LAQ section of Mehsana Asset has formed a team of 5-6 ONGC employees which team has gone to every house in the village to explain the process of ECS registration and also help them in filling up their registration forms.
Prior to visiting the village, the LAQ team engages the local village Sarpanches in the process and explains them the merits and steps involved in the registration process. Apart from publicising this information through the local press, the team has sent a written communication to all the concerned farmers. One day prior to the visit, the team goes to the village and announces that they will be coming to the village the next day for ECS enrolment.
Armed with a printer, a Xerox machine and megaphone, the team then set up shops in the community hall of the village and helps the farmers fill up their enrolment forms and explains them the process involved in ECS payment. The team also answers the queries and concerns raised by the farmers regarding the registration and payment process. They also go door to door, to every house in the village so that they do not miss any farmer.
Apart from being a huge hit amongst the farmers, this door to door campaign has seen a significant increase in the number of ECS enrolled farmers. Till date, the Land Acquisition team has covered all the villages and enrolled more than 7000 farmers with their bank details ready for ECS payments. There are still 500 farmers left for ECS registration. The team is making continued efforts to locate them as during door-to-door campaign they could not be traced. Mehsana Asset bears testament of being the first Asset to achieve 100% farmers’ payment through ECS. The asset is currently reaping the benefits of this campaign as this year; the process of rent payment has been completed within 2 months whereas previous years required rigorous efforts for 4-6 months.